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Showing posts with label Hilary Melton-Butcher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hilary Melton-Butcher. Show all posts

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hilary Melton-Butcher: Meet Some Unusual Dragons!

Today's guest, Hilary Melton-Butcher barely needs an introduction.  She's the prolific and terrific lady whom we admire for her uniquely told stories of history and mystery.  A visit to Positive letters...inspirational stories  is always a treat.  Today she's doubling up with two linked posts, one here, one at Life is Good.  Don't miss either one!

Weedy Seadragon …

Art, Science, ‘Down Under’ and bloggers … Tina of Life is Good asked if I’d do a guest post for the A-Z blog and as a guest blogger on her blog … theoretically these might have been on Vikings (these will follow) – but as is the way with my eclectic brain I’ve settled on the Weedy Seadragon and the Great Australian Coast Road.

I expect many of you will have seen or heard of the BBC tv programmes ‘Coast’, where Neil Oliver, archaeologist, historian, author and broadcaster, tells us about Britain and Europe …

he has now moved to Australia (well perhaps he’s travelled there for the programmes!) – this is where these two ideas stemmed from.

 "Weedy Seadragon - taken from the sketchbook of William Buelow Gould - 1832"

Weedy Seadragon – who could ignore such a wonderful name for ‘Phyllopteryx Taeniolatus’? This amazing little seadragon and its sister, the Leafy Seadragon’ are found around the shores of southern Australia.

"Leafy Seadragon"

These endangered, endemic to the south Australian coast, little ‘prehistoric monsters’ are just a delight to see and to have found.

Perhaps, now I’ve looked, even more interestingly … they were drawn and painted by William Buelow Gould, a convict – who had been caught stealing a coat and then was sentenced in 1826 to “seven years beyond the seas”, a phrase indicating transportation to the then penal colony of Australia.

He had a wife and two children … but once shipped out, few convicts returned. He also didn’t change his ways … and got sentenced to the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, one of the harshest, for forging a banknote.

The only way to the prison was by ship … but it got weather bound … and the convicts aboard mutinied with half of them taking the ship. Gould and the other convicts stuck with the officers … before setting off overland to get help.

For this Gould’s term was commuted; he was assigned as a house servant to the colonial surgeon Dr James Scott, who was also an amateur naturalist.

Scott put Gould’s artistic talents to use, having him paint watercolours of native flora – which today are regarded as being of a high technical standard.

Even now he couldn’t remain out of trouble and so was again sentenced to Macquarie Harbour, but based on his reputation he worked for another amateur natural historian, Dr William de Little on Sarah Island at the penal station.

This time he produced landscape sketches about life at the penal stations, as well as still life watercolours of botanical specimens, birds, fishes and other sea life.

Despite being granted his Certificate of Freedom in June 1835 he descended into a cycle of drunkenness, poverty and prison sentences for theft … he had remarried in 1836, but eventually died in 1853, aged 52 or thereabouts.

His sketchbooks and works are now highly acclaimed; his “Sketchbook of Fishes” being inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of World Register … this is the equivalent of a World Heritage listing for historic documentary material.

It is noted that Gould sketched a number of species for the first time; and his works are recognised as being of enormous value to scientists today … and he’s even had a novel written by Richard Flanagan, published in 2001, from his Sketchbook of Fishes.

I’d better return to my little prehistoric monsters … the Weedy Seadragon and Leafy Seadragon … are marine fish related to the seahorse.

The weedy appendages provide camouflage … but don’t have the prehensile tail like the seahorse … they drift or move very slowly … not far at all.

They blend in so well to their natural surroundings … that they aren’t detected as a food source … the real threat is from us humans as when there is so much pollution in the water it makes it very difficult for them to survive … but when their natural habitat is taken away then it is a real threat for them to blend in and remain hidden.

Like seahorses the males nurture the young … the female lays them into her mate’s pouch on his abdomen … about nine weeks later they are born and have immediately to care for themselves.

The southern coast of Australia was full of prehistoric, now extinct, monsters five million years ago … the seas were 2 – 3 degrees warmer and contained life that we don’t see today …

  • A huge shark – as big as a bus
  • A penguin as tall as a man
  • A killer mammoth sperm whale

We know this from the wealth of fossils that can be found around this area of coast today …

Then these pretty little prehistoric monsters have a wonderful tale to tell – let alone the fact that we have had a record of them for about 180 years
they probably evolved from those aquatic vertebrates now buried by this ever changing earth of ours.

I say here’s to the Weedy Seadragon and to the Leafy Seadragon … you have made me smile while I think about you both … and increased my desire to go down under!

Hilary Melton-Butcher

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Weedy Seadragon
Photo credit: Leafy Seadragon

Thanks, Hilary.  It's always so fun to learn about the people behind the books, and that back story, which wow, I would not have predicted!  Readers, time to go see about the Australian Coast!  See you at my place.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

British Food ... A salute to all mothers on this the American Mother’s Day!

I'm excited to introduce the very popular Hilary Melton-Butcher as our special guest today! She has a wonderful blog where you always learn something new, and her sunny personality is sure to cheer you up. I was blessed to have her on Tina's Terrific Team for the Challenge. Please give her a warm welcome!

During April and my A – Z posts on Aspects of British Cookery, Marks and Spencer released some information which reveals how over the past century British shoppers received some of the foods we now take for granted with bemusement, scepticism and, occasionally, outright horror.

I remember my father coming back from Waterloo Station with new fruits – the Ugly stands out for me ... a very thick skin and a cross between grapefruit and orange. 

I stand corrected ... it is an "Ugli" – a tangelo (grapefruit, orange and tangerine) coming from Jamaica ... as I note it is a fruit with 'a bit of a complex'. 

The 'Ugli'
They certainly aren’t much more popular today, than when bought by my father from a barrow at the station on his way home to the back of beyond – as west Surrey was in those days ... not the urbanised sprawl of greater, greater, even Greater London that it is today.

We did not have an M+S in Woking in those days ... so we did not experience some foods til we knew how to eat them ... but apparently M+S had to educate the British housewife on how to eat and what to do with these exotics ...

  • Avocado pear: peeled, stewed and served with custard?!  Yes – but the lady, who complained ... was politely told ... preferably serve as a starter with vinaigrette or lemon juice!

  • Pistachios: the dentists enjoyed a resurgence!  M+S had to include instructions: ... please first take the shells off - then eat!

  • Chicken Kiev: the Chairman of M+S (1972-82), Marcus Sieff, who revolutionised the company’s food, personally vetoed Chicken Kiev, saying the British were not yet ready for garlic!  He admitted later ... that he couldn’t have been more wrong – it sold everywhere.

I do remember the clerks serving my mother from her list of groceries ... but when the new “self-service” shops came in they were so disorienting for shoppers that M+S had to publish a leaflet explaining how the “experiment” worked.

Some early "self-service"  M+S stores had personal shoppers accompanying the housewife, as she was considered incapable of choosing for herself – being advised that this product is very new ... we’ll show you how to do it!!

It’s fascinating to think back on how much has changed ... M+S’s food technology department, founded in 1948 while produce was rationed and the economy languished, was given the job of lifting the dismal high street.

Their first forays were into cakes .... we always made ours at home – but again my mother was a brilliant cook ... yet like us many families turned their noses up at a bought cake ... but now, by the 1950s, the M+S advertorial would tempt these aspiring ladies to give bought cakes a try.

The horizons of everyday households broadened, no doubt spurred on by the ‘gossip’ of town and village life ... as women shared, or competed with each other to try new things ...

Look where we are today ... mass marketing, mass catering – yet artisanal foods, farmer’s markets, farm shops are being founded to offer creative and home made selections of foods.

The M+S advertorials, the in-house (back then) staff magazines, the rise of the cookery writer, cookery magazines, articles in newspapers all gave the aspiring, more affluent housewife the impetus and encouragement to try new recipes ...

... we are now a nation of gourmets celebrating the joy of fine food!

I hope today around the world on Mother’s Day, even though in Britain we keep the custom of Mothering Sunday (usually in March), we give our mother bunches of wonderful flowers, prepare a special meal for them and their family ...

... remember their tough times guiding their families through those early years, then celebrating all their achievements and love for their family and with life itself ...

I give thanks to all mothers today - for this Mother’s Day!

Please visit my own blog where I celebrated Aspects of British Food during the A - Z Challenge ... for a wrap up post on the way we eat now ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Guest Post from Hilary Melton-Butcher

     Today we have a creative diversion of ideas.  Just for fun here are some A to Z's from Hilary Melton-Butcher from Positive Letters, Inspirational Stories

English: A Murder of Crows, Westonbirt A Murde...Image via Wikipedia

The A, B, Cs of collectives nouns ...

Those wonder words that evoke disruptive thoughts in our minds such as  a murder of crows ...  here’s my list:

Polar Bear

Aurora of Polar Bears

Bellowing of Bullfinches

Convocation of Eagles

Dole of Doves

Exaltation of Larks

Flush of Ducks  
Gang of Elks

Head of Curlews


Impalas ... ah! A couple of ...

Journey of Giraffes

Kindle of Kittens

Leap of Snow Leopards

Murder of Crows

Nye of Pheasants

Obstruction of Dons

Parliament of Owls

Quiver of Cobras

Rush of Pochards

Sedge of Cranes

Trip of Dotterels

Unkindness of Ravens

Vagary of Impediments

Worship of Writers

X for I don’t know what!

Yakkety yak ... a herd of

Zealish Zebras .. live in small harems, or larger herds

What else can you think of to help Lee in his build up for the A – Z April challenge ... any other collectives that amuse you? 

Cheers – Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

The Blogging From A to Z April Challenge starts next Sunday!  Are you ready?

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Seasonal Take on the A to Z Challenge from Hilary Melton-Butcher

A – Z: seasonal take for The Blogging 

from A to Z Challenge ...

see how easy it can be ... an ABC of the Aspects of the British Countryside to an A – Z about our Christmastide ... come join the fun – April First 2012 is our starting day – but you’re not a fool to take part ...

The Nativity
by Charles-Francois Poerson, 1667
Advent – from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” – Advent Sunday is the start of the Advent season – fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.

Brandy Butter – an essential addition for Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies

Christmas – Christ’s Mass is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes maesse, a phrase first recorded in 1038.

 Deck the Halls: 
Green Holly and Ivy
Decorations – from pre-Christian times, people in the Roman Empire brought branches from evergreen plants indoors in the winter.  In the 15th Century in London it was the custom for every house and all the parish churches to be “decked with holm (Holm Oak), ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season the year afforded to be green.  “Deck the Halls” ... a traditional Yuletide/Christmas carol and New Year carol.

Extras: Bread sauce, chestnut stuffing, bacon rolls, turkey gravy from the juices, cranberry sauce, bowls of nuts, custard, creams and chocolates ...  

Family Christmas
Feast 1940s
Flowers to decorate the table – Christmas roses, hollywreaths ...

Grandparents and all family the essentials to Christmastide ...

Holly – was seen as a protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the Crucifixion and the blood he shed.

Ivy – the heart shaped leaves are said to symbolize the coming to earth of Jesus

Mistletoe postcard,
circa 1902
Jingle Bells – an American secular Christmas song

Karpfen in Bier: a traditional Christmas Eve dish in Germany – “Carp in Beer” ... poached, served with a sauce made from the liquor, with brown ale and gingerbread

Leftovers ... sliced ham or turkey, chipolatas, devils on horseback (bacon wrapped around prunes), fresh bread, baked potatoes, pickles and salads ...  then bowls of rich turkey soup, turkey or ham ‘muck up’ ... fried Christmas pudding with brandy butter .... yummmeeee ....

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
at King’s College Cambridge
 – December 2010 – c/o Phillip Cooke
Mince Pies with brandy butter or cream – may be eaten before a snatched kiss under the mistletoe

N for Nativity – Commemoration of Jesus’ birth – popularised by Saint Francis of Assissi from 1223

O Little Town of Bethlehem – one of many traditional Christmas Carols sung in Church or at Carol Services

Plum Pudding .... on which a sprig of holly is set, brandy poured over and set alight, before being served with brandy butter, cream or custard ...

Trafalgar Square, London
– Christmas Tree
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to Britain: they were enamoured seeing a tree hung with lights, ornaments and presents placed around.

Remember our loved ones – with a Christmas card, personal telephone call or special handwritten letter --- especially those thank you letters and cards.

Christmas stocking
Santa Claus – leave out gifts for Santa to thank him for his visit  ... Stilton, Mince Pies with a glass of sherry

Tradition – Christmas is a strong Christian tradition, from which over time a variety of Christmas celebrations have developed, that incorporate regional and local cultures.

Units of weight – you’ll be dieting off in January 2012 – sorreeeeee!

Vegetables – roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, roast onions, Brussels sprouts, carrots, red cabbage ...

Wassail Cup
Wassail cup – historically mulled cider, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger spices, roasted cider apples to decorate and topped with slices of toast, acting as sops.

X - the great unknown .... xxx or perhaps that KISS under the Mistletoe

Yule Log: Buche de Noel – a traditional dessert served at Christmas time particularly in francophone countries and former French colonies.  A sponge cake in the form of a log – filled with chocolate buttercream, covered in a chocolate ganache or frosting, decorated with powdered sugar to resemble snow.

Z       Zizz it all off – just don’t hibernate ‘til April ....

Blogging from A - Z
Lee’s great suggestion of the A – Z posts can be filled with so many ideas ...  good for our creativity, while greeting old friends and meeting new bloggers – come join the fun.

I so enjoyed the Challenge last year - thanks so much Lee for the Christmas opportunity – Happy Christmastide to one and all .. with a very successful 2012 ahead ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher

         And as Hilary says, The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is as easy as ABC.   Come join us.  Sign ups will begin on January 30, 2012.  Thank you, Hilary, for this special holiday A to Z post.


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